St Augustine Lighthouse Haunted History

October 7, 2008 at 3:47 am (Ghost, horror, Stories) (, , , , , , , , )

The St. Augustine Lighthouse sits on the north end of Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Florida. The current tower, which was built in 1874, rises to 165 feet above sea level. The original lighthouse, built in 1824, was approximately 500 yards northeast of the current lighthouse. Due to the receding shoreline, it fell into the ocean back in 1880.

Throughout its early history, the lighthouse employed up to three lightkeepers at a time. There was a head keeper and two assistants. In 1955, when the lighthouse was automated, there was no longer a need for lightkeepers and the last one left at that time. The lightkeepers, who would actually live on site, were replaced by lamplighters, who would tend the light but didn’t actually live there.

According to the lighthouse’s official website, there have been seven people who have died on the lighthouse grounds: three lightkeepers, a keeper’s wife and three young girls. Several of these are said to have died of natural causes. One man fell to his death from the original lighthouse in 1859, and the three girls died in a tragic drowning accident.

The lighthouse and its surrounding buildings have a long history of paranormal activity and stories of the hautings have been passed on and have been featured in popular television shows, books, and local lore for decades. Visitors and workers say they have seen moving shadows and heard voices along with unexplained sounds. Some tour guides claim they hear someone climbing the tower steps, but the footfalls fade away, and no one is ever there at the top of the tower. There is also said to be a little girl who likes to play pranks residing in the keeper’s house, a tall man in the basement, and a spirit who likes to play with the merchandise in the gift shop. One former keeper was infamous for enjoying his cigars. Today, the scent of his cigar can still be detected several times a week.

Several employees have reportedly seen a hazy male figure walking through the lighthouse. Footsteps from an unseen presence can be heard shuffling on the gravel and the steps outside the lighthouse. Other reports are of a woman seen on the lighthouse stairway or walking in the yard outside the buildings.

Perhaps the most famous tragic story is that of three young girls who died during the construction of the second lighthouse. The story says that there was a rail car or some type of vehicle that went from the light station to the ocean. The children liked to play on it and ride on it for fun. On July 10, 1873, the cart somehow ended up in the water. Five children fell into the water and some of the Workers managed to save a boy and a girl. Two of the construction superintendent’s daughters, Mary and Eliza, and a young black girl, either a servant or the daughter of a worker, drowned.

It’s said that today, the girls can be heard laughing in the tower late at night. The eldest of the construction superintendent’s daughters, Mary, has also been spotted wearing the same blue velvet dress and blue hair bow she was wearing when she died. Reports also say that the the figures of two little girls can sometimes be seen standing on the lighthouse catwalk.

For years there have been reports of a large dark, male spirit that hangs around the water collecting cisterns in the basement. Supposedly he was a sailor or a former lightkeeper who hung himself in the lighthouse in the 1930’s. According to the lighthouse’s website, there isn’t any proof or evidence that anyone ever hung him/herself there.

History says that the original owner of the lighthouse was forced to sell it to the government in 1865 because it was believed that the land under the lighthouse was receding and the ocean would eventually swallow it. The state offered to buy the lighthouse for alot less than it was worth and he refused to sell. The government then threatened to take the lighthouse via eminent domain and give him nothing. At this point, the former owner was outraged and vowed never to leave the lighthouse. Lighthouse staff say he seems to have kept his vow as his spirit is sometimes seen late at night walking in and around the property.

One of my favorite episodes of Ghost Hunters was filmed at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) stopped by to see if they could prove or disprove any of the hauntings. During the episode, they caught a few interesting things on both video and audio. There was a female voice that seemed to say “help me” a few times on the audio recording. The video camera captured a dark figure moving really quickly up the circular staircase and then stopping to look over the railing down at the camera crew from the top floor. The figure then disappeared. When Jason and Grant went to investigate, they realized the door at the top which would be the only exit was padlocked from the inside. There was also a motion detection light that never came on until the TAPS guys got up there. Overall, with the evidence they captured, the guys determined that they really couldn’t prove the place wasn’t haunted.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is currently owned and maintained by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, Inc. The lighthouse is operational and is is an official, privately-owned, active aid to navigation. The museum is open to the public and the admission price funds preservation of the lighthouse and programs in maritime archeology and education. The lighthouse offers night tours of the site, though they don’t promise any ghosts.

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